The grand Buckingham Palace
However, the huge yard in front of the palace is always open, and visitors can sneak a peek inside the palace from here as much as they can. Some parts of the palace can also be visited in person, if you take care to book ahead with tour programmes which are available only in the summer, as an allowance for the visitors that throng the British capital in the warmer days of summer.
The palace's main entrance is to its east, where a large triangular façade warmly welcome visitors inside. Inside the palace, there are 775 rooms, 1,514 doors, 760 windows and more than 40,000 light bulbs. For the maintenance and upkeep of the palace, there are around 800 royal servants including a flagman, fender-smith and clock-maker dedicatedly working 24/7. The clock-maker always has a busy day as throughout the palace there are more than 350 clocks and watches, and they must all be kept to show the right time, at all times.
Interestingly, different types of British flags, in terms of design, size and shape, are flown on top of the façade, to mark different occasions. The flag can also signify whether the queen is actually present at the palace then. If the royal standard flag is at the mast, the queen is home, whereas the union flag signifies her absence. Moreover in case of different national days, celebrations, mourning or demise of any royal members, flags are changed.
The most famous ceremony at the public yard is called "Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace", which is a colourful spectacle of British pageantry. For the ceremony, guards are immaculately dressed in red tunics and bearskin hats. The ceremony normally lasts about 45 minutes and the watching people are packed like sardines. In summer this program is held every day but in winter it is on every alternate day.
A while back I along with my brother and a British friend visited the public yard and witnessed the guard changing ceremony. The Old Guards stand in formation in the palace's forecourt from 11am, and are joined by the St James's Palace Old Guards at 11:15am. The New Guards arrive from Wellington Barracks and take over the responsibilities from the Old Guard. Throughout the ceremony catchy British royal music is played.
As London is a cosmopolitan city, all kinds of people gather in the public yard to see the programme, and I was quite overwhelmed to see such a vast number of people eagerly waiting to see the ceremony. The guards' unison of movement and royal musical orchestra mesmerised the visitors.
For the massive number of people who come to see the changing ceremony, the standby guards have to be extra vigilant , for a smooth show to take place.
One of the most conspicuous features in the palace's vicinity is the memorial to Queen Victoria, a sculpted monument honouring the kingdom's revered late monarch, placed at the centre of Queen's Gardens. The tiered memorial is 25 metres high and was completed in 1914. The queen's statue sits at the top. The round large elevated base for the memorial is also made of marble, can be accessed by a pair of wide stairways, and allows visitors a better view of the neighbourhood. The security here is relaxed, and makes for good sightseeing spot.
There is also a stunning semi-circular water fountain surrounding the Victoria memorial, and tradition says that wishing for things after splashing its waters can make those wishes come true.
By Samiul Raijul
Photo: Samiul Raijul